Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Bahamas: Part IV

One of the perks of our "upgrade" was having room service, for which the menu was conveniently forgotten in our room.

However, we woke up on Tuesday morning and didn't want to get out of bed to go get breakfast. I called the room service extension, and the woman on the other end of the line offered to read me the menu. We ordered two breakfast sandwiches and some fresh fruit.

The server came to our room within minutes, we scarfed down our food, put the TV and fell back asleep.

In fact, we slept until about 2 p.m.

That was when I woke up and thought my stomach was going to eat itself if I didn't go get some food, so I put on a swimsuit, packed our beach bag, told Nate I was leaving if he wanted to come with me - he did not - and then I headed out.

The chicken, bacon, alfredo pizza in the pizza shop's warmer was absolutely delicious, and I took my stocked plate down to the beach. Unfortunately the seagulls thought my food looked good as well, and I had to sit up and shoo my book at them every few seconds, but I didn't mind much.

It's hard to mind anything when you are sitting on a sandy beach in January with the sun beating down on you, eating pizza you didn't have to buy (at least then) while looking out on a turquoise-colored ocean.

I giggled as smaller birds attempted to make their way toward me without incurring the wrath of the seagulls, and I would try to stealthily feed them pizza crust without the seagulls seeing. The little birds were cute, seagulls are just nosy and mean.

After about an hour and a half, I finally spotted Nate coming from the room. He had been looking for me for quite a while but I was sitting on the farthest beach, and we hadn't been there yet. I liked that beach because not as many people were over there and it was quiet, even if it was only 30 feet away from the beach on the other side of the dock.

It felt like bugs were starting to bite on the beach as soon as the sun was starting to go down, so we went inside and got changed for dinner.

After dark, we were dressed in our finest and headed over to the island for our dinner reservations. It was cool, yet not cold, and beautiful. We had scallops, a stewed fish that tasted like pot roast, and a dessert that oddly combined chocolate and grapefruit.

We sauntered along the island paths after dinner, watched a lion fish swim around the dock and finally headed back to the main island.

A reggae band was playing, but Nate wasn't huge on it so instead we went into the piano bar and sang along for a while.

Another beautiful night, and we still had plenty of days of vacation left to enjoy.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Bahamas: Part III

We woke up the next morning, refreshed and ready to really start our vacation.

After a half hour, we were dressed in beach ware and stepped outside. It was about 7:45 a.m., and we smiled when we realized we were up before pretty much everyone else at the resort. Workers were scrubbing the pool area, and one guy was actually in the pool scrubbing the sides down with a scrub brush --- talk about cleanliness.

We wanted to hit up the French restaurant for breakfast. Nate and I are not buffet people, so we don't really go for the brunch buffet that is so popular with others. We wanted a sit-down breakfast, but the restaurant wasn't open yet so we waited about 10 minutes in the sun before we were seated.

Of course the best way to start a vacation is with eggs Benedict and fresh coffee. The restaurant was beautiful. Because it only had 14 tables, it was quiet and private. Our table was in front of a floor-to-ceiling window that looked out on another pool and the patio outside the buffet restaurant.

After breakfast — it wasn't even 9 a.m. yet — we walked down to the water activities station. I wanted to try out a water trike, but they didn't let any equipment go until 9 a.m. We walked down by the beach, stuck our toes in the chilly ocean water and then decided we would take the first ferry to Sandals' private island.

It was only about a three minute ride, and after disembarking from the boat we took a quick walk around. It was meant to be a leisurely stroll, but once we saw a hammock overlooking the beach and the open ocean, we picked up our pace to claim it before someone else did.

It was kind of comical trying to get into a hammock, and it's good that we are married, because you don't want to be that close with someone else. The sun was shining, our pale legs were glowing in the brightness and we were absolutely content.

Nate took this photo and laughed when he realized you couldn't even see his foot in it, because it blended in perfectly with the pale hammock material.

After an hour or so of laying around, I started to get antsy. We took a walk around the beach, found a sand dollar in the water — but Nate didn't want to kill it so we gently laid it down again in ocean's home — and we took a few pictures.

We ate lunch on the island and then headed back to the mainland, or the main island I guess it would be called.

We tried out a water trike, which was much less fun than I anticipated because it was a lot of work and it hardly moved when you pedaled.

Then we headed back to our room to shower and change for the wine tasting class we had signed up for.

That was super interesting. A man who had been working in the hospitality industry for more than 30 years instructed us on how to see if a wine is young or aged — depending on the color of the top of the wine. A pink color on top means the red wine is young, and a watery film on top of a white wine means the same thing.

We tried various kinds of wine to see how the flavor changed with food, which was fascinating. Peppery salmon calmed down the pinot grigio, while lime accented its flavor. Different kinds of cheese also changed the taste.

After the wine class, we started chatting with two other couples that were seated next to us. One was from Ohio, and one was from Canada. We laughed when the Canadian couple said that we pronounced decal wrong — they say deckle — and we chatted about pets and vacations and jobs. It was an enjoyable evening. In fact, we talked for so long they almost missed their dinner reservations.

Nate and I didn't have a reservation for that night, so we went to the Italian restaurant where we scarfed down lamb chops. Nate was so hungry he just picked it up and ate it off the bone.

A stop at the pub and so ended our first real day of vacation.


Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Bahamas: Part II

We were shown to the little pizzeria, overlooking the turquoise Atlantic Ocean. The smell of wood fired pizza filled the air. People chatted as they enjoyed their vacation. Nate and I started to sweat under the heat of the tropical sun.

We didn't really even have to look at the menu, because we knew we wanted to seafood pizza. It was our favorite at the pizzeria in St. Lucia, and the shrimp-crab concoction was just as delicious in the Bahamas.

We waited probably 15 minutes for our food to be ready, and I could feel my skin getting warm in the sun. I pulled my tank top strap back, and it was as I feared, I was already getting tan and this was going to be a weird tan line. But I shouldn't complain, because my pale, ginger of a husband can't tan at all. He just turns a sunny shade of red if he isn't careful to apply his sunscreen.

After lunch, we walked around to get a view of the resort, played a little snooker by the Cricketer's Pub and went back to the concierge lounge to see if our room was ready. After about a half hour, someone finally showed us to our room.

It was gorgeous. It was a suite with a king-size bed, sitting area, modern bathroom with clear doors and glass tile. There were even spotlights in the shower stall shining down on the glass shelves made for toiletries.

We immediately walked over the patio to see our view.

About two weeks before we left, we got a call from Sandals saying that we could upgrade to the concierge level suite for only $200 for the week. It included our private concierge, a suite instead of a small room and an ocean view instead of a garden view.

We kind of giggled when we opened the patio doors. We could barely see the ocean above some trees, unless we hung our heads off our patio, and then we could see it rippling in the distance. Below us was a construction site, as Sandals was creating swim-up pools to the first floor below. It wasn't exactly what we were expecting for an upgrade, but oh well.

We were afraid to take a nap, since we figured if we fell asleep after being up for so long we wouldn't wake up. Instead, we showered and went out to enjoy the ocean.

About dinner time we headed to the Cricketer's Pub, and Nate enjoyed bangers and mash while I had fish and chips. We played a little more snooker and then decided it was time to head up to our room.

When we finally went to sleep, I looked at the clock. I was impressed that we had stayed up so late after being awake for 35 hours or so. I thought it was probably 9, a little early but not bad for a travel day.

The clock was dim, and I had to get close to read it.


Friday, February 21, 2014

Phil's Take

I am proud to say I'm actually an inspiration to someone! My brother-in-law started his own blog after reading mine, and I feel so blessed that someone actually cares enough about what I say to want to try their own hand at blogging.

Check out Phil's blog here, and then you can continually find it in the pages sidebar!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Bahamas: Part I

I think it's time I finally caught up blogging about our vacation, since it was almost a month ago already!

It was a scary time the week before. Although leaving the cold in January seemed like a good idea, the week before we flew out was spent on checking to see if it would blizzard when we were supposed to leave.

It ended up that a snowstorm was supposed to start at about 5 a.m. on the Sunday we were to fly out of Chicago, and our flight was scheduled for 5:45 a.m.

We left Nate's parents house extra early and arrived at O'Hare at about 1 a.m., thinking we would just chill in the terminal before our plane boarded. Well, neither of us had arrived at an airport at that time of night and found that the ticket counter was closed when we arrived.

We took a seat on the cold tile floor, grabbed a deck of cards and played two games of cribbage. We munched on snacks provided by his parents, took turns walking around to stretch our legs, laughed at a hipster who showed up in skinny jeans tucked into ankle boots with a T-shirt and rubber-looking suspenders. He looked ridiculous, and I snapped pictures of him with Nate's iPhone.

The ticket counter didn't open until 3 a.m., and then security didn't open until almost 4 a.m., so once we got our tickets we had to wait in a line at security. There wasn't a priority lane at that security gate, so the $30 we spent on being able to go through priority was well spent...not.

The snow had already started, and our plane was covered as it sat by the gate. We were plenty early, so once we scoped out the location of our gate, we went to Starbucks and got some coffee. By that time, I had been up since 11 a.m. and I was starting to get jittery after drinking the coffee.

We boarded, and once we were de-iced and took off, I leaned on Nate to try and get some sleep. My body wasn't having it and every five minutes I twitched and woke myself up.

Once we reached Charlotte, I was really jittery from lack of sleep. I ate the tuna that Nate's dad packed in our lunch as a joke, which I enjoyed, and then it was time to board.

Next stop...The Bahamas!

We got there, and it was sunny and beautiful. I swear the airport terminal actually smelled like a pool. It was like the tropics couldn't even stay out of the building.

It's obvious they have tourism down pat. It took 10 minutes to get through customs and then 5 more minutes until we checked in with Sandals. They put tags on our bags, loaded us onto a bus and 15 minutes later we arrived.

We were early for room check-in, so Nate went to drop off our bags by the front desk since they offered to give us a tour and bring us to lunch while we were waiting. The woman I talked to apologized that it was kind of chilly out.

It was 72 degrees. She was almost shivering.

I laughed and said when we left home it was 7, and it had been colder.

She just looked at me, shocked.

My hair was greasy. I had no make-up on. I was in jeans in the tropical heat.

It was going to be a good vacation.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Not quite the best night of my life

It was two years ago Tuesday that Nate proposed to me during an O.A.R. concert, and I wrote a blog post on it called "Best Night of My Life."

It was, up to that point. But then we got married, and that was the highlight. There might be other nights in the future that I call the best night of my life, but really I shouldn't qualify what's the best night and what isn't. Our wedding was wonderful, but cuddling up next to my husband and watching TV is also perfectly special on those nights when you just need some down time.

It's about the overall life. I'm having the best life, and my husband has made it that for me. I don't know what I'd do without him; I love him so much.

Take a little trip back with me and read about our engagement here.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Narrowing down the options

"U.S. teens more stressed than adults" a FoxNews headline read today.


I could have told you that the teenagers I see are more stressed than adults, and there's a good reason - they're too busy!

The high school girls that I teach in dance have a terrible attendance record, and I have heard an enormous amount of excuses: Basketball and volleyball games, cheering for basketball games and wrestling meets, show choir, jazz choir, choir and band concerts, theatre, driver's ed, too much homework to do because they have been at other activities all evening, headache because they got up at 5 a.m. to make 6 a.m. practice...

The list goes on and on.

When I hit high school, I also was involved in a ton of stuff. I tried mock trial, cheerleading, choir, fall and spring theatre productions. Plus I was in dance class, had church youth group and I had all my schoolwork.

My sophomore year, my mom told me to pick the one thing I liked best and to stick with it. On top of having to do school, she said that it's best to give your all to something than to give everything a part of you. I chose dance. I was on the dance team at school and took dance class one night each week. I still had church and school, so that was plenty for my plate but still allowed me sleep and some time with friends.

Why are kids so busy? Why do parents pressure them to do everything? It's a better lesson to learn how to manage your time than to get experience in everything, especially if you don't love everything you're doing.

Yes, colleges want to see a well-rounded person. However, that also means a person who knows what it means to live, not just to eat and sleep at home while spending every other moment at school for some activity or another. No one expects you to do everything. It's not possible.

The lesson I learned in high school has helped me throughout my life. In college, I gave up dance team because I wanted to focus on the newspaper, because I knew that would lead to a better job after college. In my adult life, I've learned that I can't be involved in every organization and volunteer for everything people ask me to, because it's important to have balance. My family is my priority, and that means saying "No" to activities and sometimes even to friends.

I think a lot of it is parents. I would have continued trying to do too much in high school had my mom not made me think about my priorities and how important it is to give your 100 percent. I wouldn't want to see any of my dancers go, but I also want them to be happy and to put their effort toward what they truly enjoy rather than trying to do everything.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Dating your daughter

I was working on a story about a local father-daughter dance, and it sounded like so much fun.

The little girls not only get to dress up and go to a dance, but they get to make sundaes and crafts with their dads as well as get their faces and nails painted by high school and college-aged girls. I told the promoter that I wish I was younger so I could go with my dad.

I remember growing up a friend of mine bought a pretty dress each year to go to the country club father-daughter dance, and if I remember that, how strong are her memories about those times with her dad?

My dad also took me out for dates. I remember going to Dairy Queen and out to a movie when I was really little. Although he didn't go, he bought me a corsage for homecoming when I didn't have a date, and he gave me a ring with a heart-shaped key on it because he said I had the key to his heart. Even a couple of years ago we went out just the two of us for ribs at our favorite barbecue joint back home. Those memories are precious, and I'll never forget that my dad spent quality time with me.

The organization here throwing the father-daugther dance said that relationship is important because studies have shown that girls get their value from the value that their father places on them. My dad always made me feel beautiful, smart and worthwhile, and I'm so blessed that he gave me such inner confidence.

I think it's great that organizations want to encourage dads to spend quality time with their daughters, and I think it's important for dads to not only do that once a year but to set up occasional father-daughter dates with their little girls, just like my dad did.

Thanks Dad, for showing me that I was worthwhile and for creating wonderful memories with me. You've helped make me who I am today! I love you!